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Mental Health

The Importance of Mental Health

Nowadays, there is more of a push towards destigmatizing mental illness and encouraging mental health conversations. This is an important step in the healthcare field because, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 20% of the US adult population experience mental illness to some degree, ranging from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia. More than any other form of ailment, mental disorders tend to be subjected to harsh judgment and stigmatization, which oftentimes leads to prejudice and social alienation.

According to Wulf Rossler, the stigma surrounding mental illness is deeply embedded in world history. During the Middle Ages, many believed that when people were experiencing mental illness, it was a punishment from God. Therefore, these people were branded as being possessed by the devil and oftentimes burned at the stake or thrown into madhouses. Discrimination against people experiencing mental illnesses reached a cruel peak during the Nazi regime, when thousands of mentally ill people were murdered. Thankfully, this level of discrimination and stigma is long gone.

However, there is still a lot that should be done to eliminate barriers to mental health care. Mental health should be more of a priority because it determines how we handle tough situations, experience our daily lives, relate to others and make decisions. Rates of major depression have increased by 33% from 2013 to 2016, which is a truly concerning statistic. Even though we hear about it more now, there are still a lot of things that can (and should) be done in order to overcome the stigma around mental illness. 

a man sits on outdoor steps in a white hoodie with his hands behind his neck looking frustrated
hamedmehrnik | Pixabay

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an organization that provides education, resources and support regarding mental health, has given a few ways to fight mental health stigma. The most notable ways they listed were to educate yourself and others, talk openly about mental health and to show compassion for others. Although these seem simple, it can be intimidating when there is so much stigma that exists regarding mental health. However, we should all keep these simple (yet important) ideas in mind when living our daily lives. Mental health is important, no matter what stage of life you’re in.

However, not everyone feels comfortable taking control of their mental health and wellbeing. Despite advances in psychiatric medicine and psychological research, the reality of the situation is that people experiencing mental illness still face discrimination today. Mental health conditions vary in complexity and severity, but at the end of the day, someone who is experiencing mental health-related problems should not be discriminated against. Hopefully, through education and efforts from governmental organizations and nonprofits, we as a society can work towards destigmatizing mental health conditions for future generations.

As VCU students, let’s not forget that we have a lot of (free) resources when it comes to mental health! VCU offers services such as University Counseling Services, the Center for Psychological Services and Development (CPSD), and the Wellness Resource Center. It is important to remember that mental health is just as important as your physical health, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you need it!  

Rishitha is a senior at VCU majoring in Bioinformatics, while on the pre-medical track. When she isn't in classes, she loves to binge-watch sitcoms, cook, bake, and spend time with her friends and family! In her future, she hopes to become a physician and make meaningful impacts on patients' lives!
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